The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany

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9780140290356: The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany

Hitler and his consorts carried out the most extensive looting campaign in history - the theft and forced sale of millions of works of art belonging to Jews. This plunder could not have been carried out without the co-operation of German art experts. Who they were and what motivated respected professionals to sell their souls to the Nazi regime? In this text, Petrpoulos follows the careers of prominent figures who collaborated with the Nazis and implemented their programme of systematic plunder.

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Review:

In a century of atrocities, what contributed to the unique nature of Nazi war crimes was the methodical inclusivity of their scope. Not content with mass murder (or ethnic cleansing, as it is now known), the Third Reich orchestrated the cultural rape and pillage of conquered territories, as well as Jews, to reclaim works of art which were "Germanic", and thus considered legitimate booty, and to suppress "degenerate art". This high-minded ethos concealed a more mundane and recognisable urge: greed. The Nazis' rapacious Aryanisation needed the complicity of experts from the art world, who, in the land of Goethe, appropriately sold their souls for power and privilege. Twenty such Faustians are considered by Jonathan Petropoulos, author of Art as Politics in the Third Reich, in his richly detailed and timely account of the period, The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany.

Petropoulos considers individuals representing different facets of Art in 1930s Germany: museum directors such as Ernest Buchner and Hans Posse, art dealers (a traditionally Jewish profession), journalists, historians such as arch plunderer Kajetan Muuml;hlmann, and artists themselves. His restraint from polemic or moral hyperbole is admirable and necessary, preferring instead to show the murkiness of the water that could contain such self-serving sharks. The picture is complicated by a wider Germanic idea of cultural supremacy--and the punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles--but while there is scant evidence that those featured were directly responsible for death or deportation (and on occasion they may even have helped individuals escape persecution), there can be no denying their role as cogs in the slick machinery of the Third Reich, and as such they are morally, and criminally, culpable. On the last point, Petropoulos is damning on the failures of post-war denazification, which allowed many of those tainted to rehabilitate careers and continue to profit from their contacts and reputations, however besmirched. As the closing words of this quietly shocking account spell out: "The art experts of the Third Reich largely avoided punishment while they were alive; it is therefore imperative that they not be exonerated by history." --David Vincent

Review:

An account of some of the great minds of the formidable German intelligentsia who nevertheless plummeted to the depths of complicity, profiteering, and racism.... His unprecedented interviews with members of the postwar Nazi network, as well as his thorough mining of the judicial records of the late 1940s, enable Petropoulos to reconstruct not just the individual experiences of these men, but also the gray moral universe in which they build their careers... The Faustian Bargain deserves careful study by anyone seeking to understand the rise of the Nazi art bureaucracy. ( Hugh Eakin, ARTnews)

This is a balanced, deft, and clear-eyed study of the way the art world functioned in Nazi Germany and of the people who operated in it. Petropoulos writes smoothly, and his assessment of the individuals he examines and the choices they made is consistently fair and to the point. In short, a highly readable and valuable book. ( Peter Hayes, Professor of History at Northwestern University and the author of Lessons and Legacies: The Meaning of the Holocaust in a Changing World)

Based on exhaustive archival research, The Faustian Bargain is the only book to reveal the complex web of complicity linking art world professionals and the Nazi elite. It is a fascinating look not just at how these individuals collaborated with the Third Reich, but at how they were denazified and rehabilitated after the war. ( Stephanie Barron, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, curator of "Degenerate Art": The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany and Exiles and Emigres: The Flight of European Artists from Hitler".)

Spotlighting five groups ( art museums directors, art dealers, art journalists, art historians, and artists)

Petropoulos's very interesting work examines, in considerable depth, some of the major personalities that were behind both extensive looting of art treasures and also the promotion of pronationalistic works. ( Booklist)

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Petropoulos, Jonathan
Published by Penguin Books Ltd (2001)
ISBN 10: 0140290354 ISBN 13: 9780140290356
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Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: Good. Item may show signs of shelf wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. Includes supplemental or companion materials if applicable. Access codes may or may not work. Connecting readers since 1972. Customer service is our top priority. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000505814

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Book Description Soft cover. Book Condition: Good. wear and light creases to cover, creases down spine where read, pages in good condition, shipped from the UK. Bookseller Inventory # 073/EX/305P

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